London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith admits he thought his side had missed their chance after seeing them fall behind to Exeter Chiefs in the closing stages of their last-gasp Aviva Premiership Rugby victory.
Irish recovered from a 13-5 half-time deficit and raced ahead after the break thanks to tries from Blair Cowan, Alex Lewington and Tom Guest.
However, it looked as though the evening belonged to Chiefs when Gareth Steenson kicked two penalties inside the final ten minutes to give Exeter a 26-25 lead.
But, to the delight of Smith, Irish never gave up and Shane Geraghty’s drop goal sealed a bonus-point win.
“I think it was a big performance from our boys but if you said that the points were never in doubt you would be a liar,” said Smith.
“We worked really hard but I was concerned after we gave up two cheap penalties and they got out of their half and got us with a drive on their 22, I thought we had probably blown our chance then.
“We drove them to try and earn a penalty and I think most teams would have tried to continue to do so, but the boys got it right and the drop-goal got us home.
“If you had offered me five points out of the game before the start I would have bitten your hand off, so we are delighted with that.
“It wasn’t too difficult to get up for the game this week. We got off to a really good start in the league but we lost our way down at Exeter.
“They put four tries into us that day and we didn’t really appreciate the way things were celebrated down there so we felt we had to get one back.”
Steenson’s boot had given Chiefs the lead after 19 minutes before Cowan dotted down for the first try of the match.
Chiefs found some rhythm though and another penalty followed by a converted try for Dean Mumm gave Exeter the lead.
However, Irish rallied and would inflict a second narrow defeat in a row on Exeter – following last week’s defeat to Gloucester – leaving Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter frustrated.
“It was a tough one wasn’t it? We are going through that period where that win is proving tough to find,” he said.
“It was another performance we have put together in this period where we were good in parts. We got back into a winning position but again the decisive last points in the game have come from the opposition.
“I would be sitting here praising the way the team got back into it if that drop-goal misses, but as it is I am a little bit frustrated as several of their tries were from our own making and that is frustrating.”
London Irish: Fenby (Homer 54); Ojo, Mulchrone (Dorrian 69), Griffin, Lewington; Geraghty, Steele (O'Leary 54); Court (Parr 64), Paice, Aulika (Cross 48); Skivington, Rouse (Leo 61); Guest (K Low 58), Cowan, Treviranus
Not used: Stevens
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Nowell, Slade, Hill, Jess; Steenson, Chudley (Thomas 58); Rimmer, Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie 49), Francis (M Low 40) (Moon 48); Mumm, Welch; Ewers, Armand, Waldrom
Not used: Johnson, Simmonds, Whitten, McGuigan
Tries: Cowan 2, Guest, Lewington
Drop goals: Geraghty
Tries: Mumm, Ewers
Conversions: Steenson 2
Penalties: Steenson 3
Referee: Dean Richards
Get 20 per cent off a limited number of tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2015. Visit http://www.tickethour.co.uk/premierrugby/ to take advantage of this great offer.